Blogging vs. Serious Writing

A blogger quits the medium, with the worrying thought that it has inhibited his intellectual development and his life:

I say this recognizing that some ... find no conflict between blogging and doing solid, admirably accomplished and serious work ... Somehow they make the time to post posts that are well worth reading, that seem to enrich their own perspectives as much as they do the content of this site and blogdom, and (I trust and hope) still devote as much attention as they need and want to what I think of more lasting work, i.e., the stuff requiring ink. (I can hear the cyber-howls coming already ...) The Web is a better, more interesting, and more truly informing place for their efforts...

So it works for them - seems too, anyway, and I hope appearances here do not deceive. Yet somehow, for the most part, it doesn't work for me. My time has never felt more finite, and there inevitably seems something either more pressing or more lastingly valuable to devote it to: a story due, a book to develop, a child to read to, a son's baseball game to attend, a pile of books to read before I die: the hope and desire, as reader and writer, to create the sort of experience so clearly had by the man in Wayne Booth's painting (held by me above), titled "Man Reading."

I very much worry about the same thing. Matt Drudge once insisted to me a central fact of the Internet: it's a broadcast, not a piece of writing. Or rather it is writing as a broadcast. The skills for broadcasting - presentation, speed, performance, spontaneity - are not those for writing in the traditional sense. That is partly why I've found the medium so interesting. It really does represent a new, deconstructed, provisional way of writing - halfway between radio and print journalism - and we still don't know where it will end. I've spent these past seven years exploring this unknown territory, and all the time, I've wondered if I wouldn't have been better off in a more traditional milieu. Producing a book while blogging was almost impossible. It wasn't so much the time (though that was hard); it was the very different mindset needed when you sit down to write something that you hope will last a few years and something that you know will only last a few hours.

I've tried to push the boundaries - blogging about a book, writing longer, more sustained dialogues (like the debate with Sam). But the web keeps bringing you back to the punchy and the immediate and the fun. One day, I hope to stop this pace and spend a few years reading and writing again. But not yet. It's too interesting to quit right now.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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